Hillary Clinton’s vulnerability is real – give her a break
March 11, 2016
Shah Sheikh (1172 articles)
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Hillary Clinton’s vulnerability is real – give her a break

What’s happened to the real Hillary Clinton? You know, the tough-as-old-boots, show-no-weakness, ball-busting Hillary Clinton of old?

Because I hardly recognised the woman who turned up to the Democratic debate in Miami on Wednesday night.

In a moment of remarkable vulnerability, Hillary Clinton said she is “not a natural politician, in case you haven’t noticed, like my husband or President Obama”. She added: “I have a view I have to do the best I can, get the results I can, make a difference in people’s lives.”

Karen Tumulty of the Washington Post asked why voters don’t trust her despite decades in politics. The former first lady has consistently struggled on “trustworthiness” when compared to her main rival Bernie Sanders, with only 37 per cent of voters finding her “honest” and “trustworthy” according to a Washington Post/ABC News poll.  It’s the kind of tough question journalists ask expecting a politician to either dodge it or disagree with the premise. Hillary Clinton did neither. She agreed.

“It’s painful for me to hear that, and I do take responsibility. When you’re in public life, even if you believe that it’s not an opinion that you think is fair or founded, you do have to take responsibility, and I do. And I also have, you know, very much committed to the best of my ability my energies and efforts to helping people. That’s something that I care deeply about, and I will continue to do that.”

Are Hillary Clinton’s attempts to appear more genuine, well, genuine? Or is there a whiff of panic about it – a calculated effort to respond to polls that suggest she needs to appear more authentic if she wants to clear a path to the White House?

When it comes to politicians, I’m pretty cynical (years of working in Westminster does that to you.)

But I find it easy to believe that Hillary Clinton does have insecurities about whether she’s a “natural politician”.

Firstly, just look at the evidence. When she says she’s not a natural politician like Bill Clinton or Barack Obama, well, she’s right. Both the men have the breezy confidence that allows them to crack gags, switch on contagious smiles and generally appear comfortable in their own skin. Whether that makes them effective legislators, is another matter.

In contrast, when Hillary Clinton tries to turn on her best million-dollar smile, the effect is more of a painted-on grimace. When she’s glad-handing and back-slapping her reporters, her eyes sometimes betray a sense that she might be a little bit frightened. Relaxed is not a word you would use to describe Hillary Clinton. It’s hard to imagine the queen of pant-suits shooting hoops like Barack Obama or turning up to MacDonalds wearing a baseball cap and a teensy pair of shorts like her husband did (and somehow got away with.)

Instead, Hillary Clinton has tried to model herself as a serious and experienced politician.

But there’s a problem. The biggest danger for Hillary Clinton isn’t that she will be seen as too soft, too feminine or too weak for the White House. It’s that she could be painted as the establishment candidate. It’s an attack deployed by Bernie Sanders in the race for the Democratic nomination, and it would be ruthlessly exploited by Donald Trump if the battle for the Presidency turns into a fight between the real estate mogul and Clinton.

Voters in the US and the UK are in a collective swoon over personality politics.

Jeremy Corbyn – scruffy-suited backbencher – has been elected leader of the Labour Party. Pint-loving Nigel Farage scooped millions of votes at the General Election and Boris Johnson is one of the favourites for the next Tory leader despite (or because of?) cornering the “lovable buffoon” market.

In the US, outspoken socialist Bernie Sanders and blonde bombshell Donald Trump were previously written off as politicians who could command serious support among the public. Not any more.

Have you noticed anything about all of these ‘new types of politician’?

Well I have. They’re all men.

The difficult truth is that it’s more difficult for women to break free of the stereotype of how a serious politician is supposed to act.

Hillary Clinton herself may be aware of this. She said in an interview with MSNBC’s Morning Joe programme: “Still today, when you are a high-achieving woman – particularly one in the public eye – you really are just expected to perform at a higher level all the time. And there are not enough experiences with different styles or different approaches that women make. Men, my goodness – you know, there’s a million different ways you could be successful, you could communicate and all the rest of it. And look, I’m not telling you anything you don’t know.”

Showing vulnerability is Hillary Clinton’s attempt to try out a new approach. It’s very different from the Hillary we’ve come to know. But maybe we shouldn’t be too quick to dismiss the idea that female politicians can show different sides to themselves without being labelled as fake.

Source | Telegraph